So, your small business has been doing fine for quite some time and you feel that it’s time to expand it beyond the borders of your home country? The world is a global village and new technologies allow you to offer your products or services in different countries and time zones.
This exciting and absolutely feasible plan, however, comes with many obstacles and challenges that you need to be aware of before you embark on the entrepreneurial journey of a lifetime. Before we start discussing the knowledge and skills required for competing on the international stage, it’s important to emphasize that good, high-quality products or services are a must, but by no means are they sufficient for your success.
Follow and implement these simple steps to take your business globally without making rookie mistakes.
1. Explore your target market
The first step is conducting thorough research of the market you want to enter and establishing some important facts to help you decide whether you should take your chances. Some of the questions that you’ll need to consider are:
- How many potential customers are there?
- Who are your competitors?
- Is your existing business model applicable?
- How will you provide local customer support?
Besides these purely technical things, it’s also crucial to understand the local market you’re interested in, as well as its rules, habits, and cultural differences. Make sure that you’re familiar with the legal rules and regulations. Also, since politics, along with the entire business environment in the area you want to expand to, can affect the development of your business, it’s a good idea to hire a consultant familiar with that region to help you make your business decisions wisely and avoid educated guesses.
It’s equally important to analyze the cost-effectiveness of all the efforts and resources that you’ll have to invest, in order to prevent a bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew scenario.
2. Understand financial management
Many business owners suffer from the lack of financial literacy. And if we bear in mind that poor cash flow management is the reason why 82% of small businesses fail, it’s clear how dangerous financial ignorance can be. The things get even more complicated when you need to handle international transactions.
So, learning some basics about financial management and common trade finance instruments can save you from a number of money issues. It’s also a good idea to hire a seasoned accountant who specializes in international transactions and markets. Other frequent problems include securing financing for overseas ventures, ensuring that you get paid in a timely manner, and extra overseas operational costs. Take these into consideration before you make your decision to go global.
3. Localize your marketing approach
Believe it or not, but Google isn’t the most popular search engine in every part of the world. The same goes for Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media and IM giants. So, if you want to get your SEO and marketing right, you need to reach out to your foreign audiences by means of their local channels of communication. For example, if you want to target Chinese audiences, then you should know that Baidu holds 65% of the search engine market share in that country.
Similarly, your content should also be localized. Although it’s possible to translate certain blog posts, it’s much better to have a marketing team composed of people from the region you’re targeting or those who understand cultural, linguistic, and procedural nuances inherent for that part of the world. It’s also worth noting that not the same topics and keywords work for different countries of parts of the world, so make sure that you create your local marketing and SEO strategy from scratch.
4. Build personal connections
Once you pick a foreign market that you want to expand to, visit it and start building personal relationships with your foreign partners and associates. It’s true that modern technologies make it possible for you to have meetings, hire people, and sell online, but face time is indispensable if you want to run your business successfully. Getting to know a certain country isn’t possible without going there and having some first-hand experiences. Share images of your visit and interaction with local people on your social media channels, as that will be some kind of social proof that your company cares about your customers and employees there.
5. Scale your efforts
After you’ve launched your business in a certain region, start tracking your performance and scaling your efforts on a regular basis. After a while, it may be be necessary to open a local branch which will handle the business there. Another step would be localizing your brand experience and optimizing it to fit the needs of your target audience. However, don’t rush things, as moving too fast will only drain you financially and put too much stress on your business. So, take one step at a time and control your growth.